Situated around 20 km east of Brussels, the Flemish-speaking town of Leuven is home to Belgium’s largest university, the Catholic University of Leuven. The 15th century was the golden era for the town, with the establishment of the university, the market square, and the town hall. The 18th century saw Leuven become a major brewery centre, and the town is home to the headquarters of InBev, the world’s largest producer of beer by volume, with some of its famous brands including Stella Artois, Leffe, and Hoegaarden.


The town hall is located in Leuven’s market square, and is a fine example of Gothic architecture. It has 3 floors, and inside there is a vast collection of artwork, including paintings of Leuven’s mayors since 1794. Next to the town hall is Saint Peter’s Church, which is also constructed in a Gothic style. It was damaged during World War II but has mostly been restored; during the renovations a Romanesque crypt dating back to the 11th century was found. The 50 metre high tower is home to a carillon, a musical instrument made up of bells.

The Beguinages are small houses clustered around a square that were used by the Beguines, a Roman Catholic sisterhood of common women who devoted themselves to religion but without taking monastic vows. The Beguinages in the Flemish part of Belgium were included on UNESCO’s World Heritage Site list in 1998.

The university dominates Leuven, accounting for almost a quarter of the town’s population. The oldest Catholic university in the world, it was founded in 1425, and some of its buildings that are worth visiting include the University Library, which also houses a carillon, University Hall, and its numerous student colleges.


The town centre has a number of boutique shops that sell visitors an array of goods, including antiques, jewellery, glassware, and world-famous Belgian chocolates. There are also shops that sell the standard range of designer goods.

The weekly market offers shoppers antiques, textiles, food produce, and horticultural goods.

Nightlife and Eating Out

Leuven has a high concentration of good quality places to eat, offering both Belgian and European cuisine. A typical meal of Belgian mussels, chips, and beer is easy to find in town, and other popular dishes include beer soup, cheese pie with leeks or onions, and Belgian waffles. Some highly recommended restaurants include Couvert Couvert and Kokofour for Belgian fare, La Cantina del Coronel for Mexican food and cocktails, Chess Café for Oriental cuisine, and Aglio e Rosmarino for Italian dishes. For those after more upmarket establishments, Leuven is home to 2 Michelin star restaurants, Belle Epoque and Orange par Roland Debuyst.

Known as a university town and a “City of Beer” because of the headquarters of InBev, it is no surprise that Leuven has an abundance of nightspots for visitors. A brewpub called Domus offers freshly brewed local beer as well as a selection of other Belgian beers. The market square is sometimes called “The Greatest Bar in Belgium” due to its plethora of cafés and bars that come alive at night when the student population comes out.

Tourist Information

  • Leuven Tourist Office, Market Square 9, 3000 Leuven
  • Telephone: +32 16 211 539
  • Website: www.visitbelgium.com/leuven.htm


Leuven has no international airport of its own, so visitors have to fly into Brussels International, which is served by many international carriers as well as charter airlines. From Brussels airport, Leuven can be easily reached by bus, train, or even taxi.